Thursday, November 10, 2011

Zero-Level Chainmail-Style Fun

Saturday night we were supposed to have our Pathfinder game which is being run by my brother-in-law, but we were short 2 of the 4 players, so he didn't really want to run it. As luck would have it, I had just gotten my back issues of Fight On #6 and #7 the previous night, and I had read Jeff Rients' excellent article, "Holy Crap! I Need a Dungeon RIGHT NOW!" (in issue #6). It was a very good article that gave some great and easy-to-remember guidelines for creating a decent dungeon in no time flat.

I purposely didn't bring hardly any of my stuff with me, even though I usually do as a "just in case" measure. So all I had was one sheet of graph paper, my copy of Vornheim, a notebook with a few tables I had done up previously, and Labyrinth Lord and my Zero-Level rules on my tablet.

So, I took the opportunity to whip up a quick haunted house with 3 levels, had each of the two players "roll up" 6 0-level noobs, and we had us a nice little adventure!

This was the closest thing to total improvisation I have ever done, and it went really well. I did take about 45 minutes to put everything together, but they only made it through about a third of the content in the several hours we played, so it's safe to say I overprepped. Both commented on how much fun they had, and I think the whole thing did a good job of showing how you can have lots of fun with very few rules or character details.

For combat, they just rolled a d6 for each PC they had, and they would hit on a 6 with a makeshift weapon, or hit on a 5+ with an actual weapon like a sword. They had one room where they "activated" 4 zombies and 5 skeletons, and we were able to manage the combat very quickly and easily this way. Plus, there's just something gratifying about rolling handfuls of dice. I've been spending a lot of time lately reading about how to use Chainmail rules for OD&D combats, and this session showed me that it is something I really ought to pursue.

Once I got into the flow of things, I found it really easy to add little details on the fly that brought the thing to life. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Otherwise empty room with a fortune-telling machine ala Zoltar, from the movie Big with Tom Hanks.
  • Random encounter with three wolves was turned into three pet wolves with the clever use of a pound of bacon and a good reaction check. Minutes later, when they were sent into combat against ghouls, 2 of the 3 failed their morale checks and fled. Easy come, easy go!
  • Illusory place settings on a dining table in an early room had the players examining EVERYTHING they encountered thereafter through a mirror.
  • The players located an invisible coffin hanging from the ceiling in a room. The coffin contained a beheaded vampire with a stake in his chest that wasn't bothering anyone. They decided it would be a good idea to douse him in oil and set him on fire (after stealing his cape) inside the house, apparently forgetting that the manor was constructed of wood. It was getting late anyways, and they had gotten a fair amount of treasure despite never making it to the second floor. After getting back to town, they heard tale of a group of villagers that attempted to burn down the place 40 years prior, and found the place standing the next day as if nothing had happened. So, they can probably go back if they want to.


For your pleasure, here are my crappy maps and keys from the session:

top is the ground level, then the 2nd floor, then the "basement"